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Monday, February 7, 2011

Stepfamily Trap: The Danger of Denying Our Feelings

"I thought I would naturally love my stepchildren as my own but the feelings are not there," my friend, stepmother of two said. "I tried to deny my feelings for a long time, but I'm finally accepting them for what they are."

You can't control your feelings and if you allow yourself to feel guilty for feeling a certain way, it creates more bad feelings. It's okay if you don't feel love toward your stepchildren all the time. You might develop more loving feelings as your relationship develops, but you might not.

If we're really honest, we must admit that some stepchildren are easier to love than others. In her book, Stepmonster, Dr. Wednesday Martin paints a painful, but realistic, picture of how stepchildren behave. "Our stepchildren do, in fact, frequently try to exclude us. They do things -- consciously or unconsciously -- that make us feel overlooked, left out, unappreciated. They send subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle signals that they wish we simply didn't exist, that they'd like to erase us from the picture, or from the message on the answering machine."

Dr. Martin goes on to tell a story "of a woman who was not invited to her stepdaughter's wedding, after nearly two decades of marriage to the young woman's father, 'because it will be too difficult for Mom.' Her husband told his daughter that they would attend together or not at all, but the stepmother never really recovered from her hurt and, not surprisingly, ceased making efforts with her stepdaughter for a long time."

Hopefully, your stepchildren have not been that cruel to you. But, if you've been a stepparent long, I would venture to guess you've been hurt more than once by your stepchild. That doesn't make it okay to stoop to his/her level and react with tit for tat behavior, but it is okay to acknowledge how those actions affect your feelings.

I learned early in our marriage that I would need God's help to love my stepchildren unconditionally. It's not easy and I don't get it right all the time, but as I pray for God to soften my heart toward my stepchildren, I'm able to offer them my love and forgiveness. In our early years of marriage there were days that I felt my  stepchildren didn't deserve another chance, but then I was reminded that I don't deserve the love and grace God offers me either.

Feelings are not facts. They will change as your relationships develop. It's okay to admit to feelings of hurt, anger, and disappointment in your stepparenting role. Just don't get stuck there. Work through your feelings with a friend, a minister, or your spouse. Or seek professional counseling if you need help identifying your feelings and coping with them.

We can't allow our feelings to control us. But we can seek to uncover their roots and deal with them appropriately.

What feelings are you burying, in hopes they will simply go away?

Related Posts:

Let Go of the Guilt

Do You Love Your Stepkids?

Overcoming Difficult Feelings as a Stepparent

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At February 7, 2011 at 9:09 PM , Blogger gkbccb said...

i found u via social moms discussion tab w blogroll topic. anyway
i follow via gfc (gkbccb)
i would like for you to check mine and follow it as well.
bloggers scratching each others backs, if u will

At February 10, 2011 at 12:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog really has been a sanity saver. I had wondered if I was cold-hearted when the 'feelings' didn't flow freely for my stepson. I treat him the same as our other children but have recently had to accept that I may never 'feel' the same even though we have a 'fairly' good relationship. His mother causes no end of grief and does a lot of subtle whispering in his ear, so he brings this back into the home after visitations. It is very difficult at times to not take the frustration toward her, on him. Your blog has helped see things from a mature perspective, of someone further down the road. Thank you.

At February 10, 2011 at 8:24 PM , Blogger Step Parenting with Grace said...

Thank you for your comment. I understand your feelings and I know it's hard. When the other parent sabotages the stepparent's efforts and the relationship we're trying to build, it makes it so much harder. But we can't control that. We can only control our reaction to it.

I don't know how old your stepson is but as he gets older, he will form his own opinion of you, regardless of what his mom has told him. You may never have the relationship you want but if you've done your part to love and care for him, you'll know you've done all you can.

God bless you and your efforts.



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